Diana’s death: how come they took photos rather than help?

In the programme Diana, 7 Days aired on BBC1 on 27th August 2017, Prince William says: ‘I think one of the hardest things to come to terms with is the fact that the people that chased her through the tunnel were the same people taking photos of her, while she was still dying on the back seat of the car.’

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It’s an unsettling thought. Why would a group of people snap photographs rather than do what most of us would do instinctively, try to help?


Mirror neurons in the human brain allow us to empathically connect with the feelings of another human brain. When we witness pain or distress in another, we feel concern. A part of us registers that pain as if it were our own.

In other words, when you cry, I feel sad and I may cry too.

Human beings are capable of extraordinary acts of compassion and kindness. It is natural for us to want to help each other. Social bonding and instinctive altruism ensure the greater welfare of the wider group.

So what happened in the tunnel in Paris on 31st August 1997 when, as Diana lay dying on the back seat of a Mercedes, a group of men crowded round her, not to help, but to get pictures?

The clue may come in the word ‘group’.


To the paparazzi who regularly pursued Princess Diana in the months and years before her death, she was not one of ‘us’, she was one of ‘them’. In an uncannily predictive article published in the Independent months before her death, journalist Marianne Macdonald, wrote:

Diana probably sees more of the five or six paparazzi who follow her almost daily than of her ex-husband or sons. They are as much a part of her life as her workouts or her trips to Harvey Nichols. Like a fatal disease, they will be with her until death.’

She continues:

‘It is chilling to hear the slang the paparazzi use for photographing Diana. To take a number of pictures is to "hose her down". They also "blitz her", "target her" and "whack her". To do this they stick their cameras right in her face. Another tactic is baiting her so that she gets angry and they get better, more lucrative photographs.’


Diana had become ‘The target’. They use the language of the hunter and Diana was their prey.

Something else happens when we look at life though a lens. We feel disconnected. We are removed one step from reality. It’s a mechanism we use to protect ourselves from trauma. It’s called ‘dissociation’ in my business.

And research shows, the more people who are witness to an incident, the less likely anyone is to take action. Everyone assumes someone else will do something. It’s called ‘diffusion of responsibility’ or the bystander effect.

A fatal prediction

Whatever happened that night in the Parisian tunnel, it’s certainly a tragic example of absence of humanity.

Macdonald’s article outlined a previous bumper to bumper car chase between the Princess’s and a photographer’s car that topped 120mph. Her concluding statement would prove to be chillingly accurate:

‘This is not an isolated incident. The book suggests that Diana has often jumped lights and broken speed limits in a bid to escape her tormentors. They have then done the same. If this harassment continues, her story could no longer just end in tears.

Someone could die, and it might not be a paparazzo.’








Frances A Masters

Psychotherapist, Coach, Writer. Live your best life.

Do you want to be happier and more resilient? Some people seem to just 'bounce back' no matter what life throws at them. We can't choose many of life's events but we certainly do have a choice about how we respond. My passion for mental health began 25 years ago when I suffered postnatal depression and realised the help I needed simply wasn't there. The pills didn't work. In fact they made things worse. What I really needed was to understand how anxiety, depression and emotional ill health can develop. I needed to learn good 'mind management' skills which would act like a 'psychological inoculation' against future problems. When I recovered, I made a decision to find out how and why I had become so depressed and made a personal pledge to do something to provide the kind of help for others which I had needed. I wanted to prevent people suffering unnecessarily. So I embarked on a personal and professional journey and, along the way, developed a brand new approach to health and well-being. My journey began with four years of traditional counselling training, followed by a postgraduate diploma in psychotherapy. I studied cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), hypnotherapy, coaching and cognitive neuroscience. I built up 30,000 hours professional experience which I brought together into the new happiness and resilience programme l named 'Fusion.' I also wrote a book about how to resolve post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), founded a therapeutic coaching charity and trained volunteers to work in this new way. This training programme would later become the nationally accredited Fusion Therapeutic Coaching Diploma and Distance Learning Skills Certificate. Now... The journey continues. Now I want to reveal all my professional secrets about good mind management to as many people as possible through social media and by training Fusion Breakthrough trainers from all over the world. One of them could be you... Something new.. Something different.. Something which lasts.. What if you could experience one day which could actually change your life for good; giving you your own eureka moment; not only helping you create a vision of the life you want to live, but actually give you the real skills to get there and stay there? Fusion is a tried and tested system which combines the best of psychotherapy and coaching into a powerful new formula for lasting change. My aim is to help and empower as many people as possible to feel their best, be their best and live their best lives. Perhaps I could help you too....